In 1958, Bay St. Louis celebrated its 100th birthday, but a recent discovery revealed that party was thrown forty years late.
It turns out the city was actually founded in 1818 - making 2018 the 200th year since its establishment. Find out what's in store!
- story by Lisa Monti
Bay St. Louis is hosting a community celebration for its 200th birthday on December 8 to coincide with the holiday version of the Second Saturday Art Walk.
Due to weather concerns, the bicentennial celebration will take place at 3pm at the Hancock County Historical Society on Cue Street (next to the Courthouse), to celebrate past and present community leaders who have made Bay Saint Louis one of the best small towns in America.
1818 - 2018: A new beginning - literally.
Roth started doing a little research and when he found out nothing was planned for the 200th observance, he started getting individuals and organizations together to mark the event.
Roth said the bicentennial's plans are being finalized with input from local elected officials, tourism groups and the business community. There will be a parade with a performance by the Bay Ratz Marching Battery and period costumed characters, a time capsule burial, and the unveiling of a plaque at the old City Hall near the Shoofly to replace the one Katrina destroyed.
“The Hancock County Historical Society and the state Archives and History officials have worked together to make sure the sign we’re dedicating is historically correct,” Roth said.
The four living mayors and their families will be special guests at the ceremony. Other invited guests include the governor and lieutenant governor.
The Bay’s origins date back to 1699 when it was a French settlement. Spain laid claim to the area in 1763, followed by the British in 1780. In 1818, the settlement was incorporated by the first Mississippi Legislature as Shieldsborough, named in honor of Thomas Shields, an early settler.
The English name didn’t sit well with the town residents of French descent, who preferred calling it Bay St. Louis, after the body of water named by Bienville for French King Louis IX. Local officials took the emphatic step in 1858 to reincorporate the town once again as Shieldsborough, hoping the name would stick. But in 1875, city officials reincorporated yet again with the name Bay St. Louis.
The convoluted succession of maneuvers might have been why Bay residents chose 1958 to celebrate the city’s centennial, even though the city was actually 140 years old. Nonetheless, it was a huge community celebration when men grew beards, people wore period costumes and wooden nickels were prized currency.
This year’s celebrants will find the city enjoying its well earned reputation as a welcoming community filled with diversity and creativity that people want to visit and be part of as part-time or full-time residents.
Organizers say the main thing about the bicentennial is to remind residents of the city’s long, illustrious and resilient history. And the event will be a special one for the residents who remember the 1958 centennial.
“We want the public to know this is happening,” Roth said. “This is an historical event for our city and we want to make sure that our citizens are made aware of this milestone and hope those who can, will join us in the celebration.”